The Immunization Card

Around the world we are entering a strange era where you need an immunization card to enjoy indoor events, some outdoor events, gatherings, public places, and so on. To those who reply, “Just get your shots!” I would reply that even for those who have gotten their shots (including me), there are lots of ethical and practical questions here. The ethical: is it really right to separate those with shots from those without, when the message all along has been that getting vaccinated is optional? The practical: it’s one thing to get a shot, and another to obtain the card, which for many has involved numerous visits to offices, phone calls, and more.

Here in Hungary, most Hungarians who were vaccinated got their cards within a few days of the first shot. (The date of the first shot shows on the card; when you scan the QR code, you are supposed to see all shots to date.) But most foreigners received no card; as it turned out, the workers at the vaccination sites had not entered them as foreigners, so they didn’t show up in the system at all. For me, it took three appointments (two at a government office, one at a vaccination site) to get this sorted out, and then it was a long wait until the card actually arrived (yesterday). But when I scanned the QR code, I saw only the date of the first shot in the system, so I have to get that fixed immediately.

On Monday, when I went on a field trip to Tiszafüred with Class 10.C and my colleague Marianna, I found out what it meant not to have a card yet. The whole day’s program was to take place at the city’s ecocenter, which has an aquarium, 3D films, boat rides, and more. Although I had paper verification of my shots, I was told that I couldn’t go in, not even for the open-air part of the program. So Marianna and the students went in without me, and I walked around Tiszafüred for about four hours. It was disappointing but not terrible; at the end of the day we were all together again, and we went to the Korona Cukrászda for an ice cream. But the worst part was the stress in the beginning; Marianna called the principal of Varga, who tried to help, and I tried my best to persuade the staff to let me in. But it was all to no avail: no card, no go, even though I had proof of both shots. And just a day later, the situation would have been different (well, two days, since I would have needed to receive the card first).

So there are all kinds of inconsistencies, and that’s only the beginning. I understand the reasons for these policies (which are not particular to Hungary), but also see many levels of problems with them. System glitches aside, this puts pressure on people to get any shot that is available and approved, even if it’s not the one they want. What if it is approved in one country and not another? The complications are going to unfold over the coming months. (I think I will be fine with my Pfizer shots, but it would be a rude surprise to find out that your particular type of vaccine is an obstacle to travel.)

An ethical problem with this requirement is that it puts us in a position of getting a card to do what we want to do. I want my card, because I want to lead my life. I don’t want any of my plans to go awry because I didn’t get my card. The process of getting a card and the ways of using it encourage this way of thinking. And once I have a card, I get to do what I want. I’m not sure what the alternatives are, but it’s worth thinking about.

I took this picture in Tiszafüred.

  • “To know that you can do better next time, unrecognizably better, and that there is no next time, and that it is a blessing there is not, there is a thought to be going on with.”

    —Samuel Beckett, Malone Dies

  • Always Different



    Diana Senechal is the author of Republic of Noise: The Loss of Solitude in Schools and Culture and the 2011 winner of the Hiett Prize in the Humanities, awarded by the Dallas Institute of Humanities and Culture. Her second book, Mind over Memes: Passive Listening, Toxic Talk, and Other Modern Language Follies, was published by Rowman & Littlefield in October 2018. In February 2022, Deep Vellum will publish her translation of Gyula Jenei's 2018 poetry collection Mindig Más.

    Since November 2017, she has been teaching English, American civilization, and British civilization at the Varga Katalin Gimnázium in Szolnok, Hungary. From 2011 to 2016, she helped shape and teach the philosophy program at Columbia Secondary School for Math, Science & Engineering in New York City. In 2014, she and her students founded the philosophy journal CONTRARIWISE, which now has international participation and readership. In 2020, at the Varga Katalin Gimnázium, she and her students released the first issue of the online literary journal Folyosó.


    On April 26, 2016, Diana Senechal delivered her talk "Take Away the Takeaway (Including This One)" at TEDx Upper West Side.

    Here is a video from the Dallas Institute's 2015 Education Forum.  Also see the video "Hiett Prize Winners Discuss the Future of the Humanities." 

    On April 19–21, 2014, Diana Senechal took part in a discussion of solitude on BBC World Service's programme The Forum.  

    On February 22, 2013, Diana Senechal was interviewed by Leah Wescott, editor-in-chief of The Cronk of Higher Education. Here is the podcast.


    All blog contents are copyright © Diana Senechal. Anything on this blog may be quoted with proper attribution. Comments are welcome.

    On this blog, Take Away the Takeaway, I discuss literature, music, education, and other things. Some of the pieces are satirical and assigned (for clarity) to the satire category.

    When I revise a piece substantially after posting it, I note this at the end. Minor corrections (e.g., of punctuation and spelling) may go unannounced.

    Speaking of imperfection, my other blog, Megfogalmazások, abounds with imperfect Hungarian.

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